9 Proven Principles for Increasing Productivity, Profit and Peace of Mind

Do you feel guilty about all the publications you purchase but never read -- or the articles you read with great ideas or opportunities you never implement? Are you spending time recreating marketing materials because you cannot find what you wrote the preceding month or year? Do you run out the door for an appointment at the last minute because you could not find your keys or the directions you needed to get where you are going? Are you frequently feeling tired and overwhelmed? Do the people you care about express frustration at your disorganization or want to spend more time with you? If so, "getting organized" should be high on your priority list!

One of the continual frustrations in my career as a professional organizing consultant has been people's misconceptions about what it means to be "organized." Visions of unrealistically tidy desks and impossible mandates such as "Handle a piece of paper only once" conjure up feelings of frustration and impossibility. Fears of being imprisoned by a specific work style eliminate the reality of the freedom resulting from true organization.

What does it mean to "get organized?" Many people have a total misunderstanding of what it really means. I am trained as a musician. I look at organizing as an art form. Paint me a picture of what you want your life to be like, and I will help you get organized so you can get there! "Organization" is very personal. To identify whether a particular aspect of your work or life is organized, ask these three questions:

1. Does it work?
2. Do you like it?
3. Does it work for others?

Getting organized is about creating and sustaining a setting in which everything around you supports who you are and who you want to be ? and allows everyone else you care about to do the same! The secret of getting organized and staying organized is what we call a "Productive Environment." I have spent the past 25+ years assisting individuals and organizations to create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do that by helping them organize their time, space and information.

If you are ready for a life that will help you increase your profit and decrease your stress, here are 9 proven principles to get you started:

1. Today's mail is tomorrow's pile:
Are you sick of the clutter in your life? Most people start getting organized by throwing away old stuff. Our most popular service is called The 8-Hour Miracle?. We spend eight hours with a client with the promise of three things: 1) You will know what to do with every new thing that comes into your home or office. 2) You will be able to find anything we have filed or stored in that eight hours in five seconds or less. 3) You will have a Productive Environment GamePlan? for handling whatever we didn't handle in the eight hours we were there. If we do not live up to that promise, you do not owe us any money. How can we make that promise? Because we ignore all your old stuff, and set up a system to design the future you desire.

2. Organizing in and of itself is of no value.
It is merely a tool to help you accomplish something important to you. Ask yourself, "If I were organized, what would I be able to do that I cannot do now?" An inability to organize a particular aspect of one's life often reflects a "should" mandated by someone else ? not an inner desire to improve the quality of work or life, which is the only real reason for organizing anything! Always ask "Should I be organizing this at all?"

3. Clutter is postponed decisions.®
Not being able to decide what to keep, where to keep it, how long to keep it, etc. causes paralysis when it comes to organization. The good news is that there are really very few options. You can get rid of something, you can store it so you can use it regularly, or you can store it so you can use it if you want to.

4. Implement The FAT System?.
Papers pile up on your kitchen counter or a desk because you have not made a decision. The good news is there are really only three decisions you can make: File (in case you want it in the future, Act (the ball is in your court to pay the bill, write the report, or make a phone call), or Toss (decide it is not necessary).

5. Eighty percent of what you keep you never use.
Ironically, often the more you keep the less you use. It is no mistake the simplicity movement is one of the fastest growing in the world! Continually practice The Art of Wastebasketry® by asking these questions:
? Does this require action?
? Can I identify a specific use?
? Is it difficult to obtain again?
? Is it recent enough to be useful?
? Are there tax or legal implications?
? What is the worst possible thing that would happen I did not have this? If you can live with your answers, toss or recycle!

6. Overresponsibility can become irresponsibility.
One of the major reasons people keep things is because they "might be useful someday." For example, many people have every pair of eyeglasses they ever ordered while someone 20 minutes away cannot afford even one pair. Do you have difficulty letting go of things ? even if you do not use them? Finding someone else who needs them more than you do will make it easier.

7. Half of any job is having the right tool.
For years I struggled with guilt about my inability to stick to an exercise program. The combination of spending 80% of the time on the road and negative childhood experiences about physical activities seemed insurmountable, until I discovered I could get amazing results using exercise equipment I could pack in my suitcase and use in the privacy of my bedroom.

8. Perfection prevents progress.
A creative mind always has more ideas than the physical body can carry out. Virtually everyone I know, including myself, feels guilty about not being able to keep on top of the "to read" pile. Consider spending more time contemplating what you will do as a result of what you have read than feeling guilty about what you have not done.

9. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness.
Sadly, many people have been conditioned to feel that being successful means going it alone. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As president of The National Association of Professional Organizers, my theme, which I have subsequently turned into a theme for my life and my business, was "Together we are better?." I believe that statement applies to all of life. The only thing keeping you from getting what you want is finding people who can ? and want ? to help you get there!

Getting organized is an on-going process, not a destination. It is about progress, not perfectionism. When you feel less organized than you would like to be, forgive yourself, and move on. Substitute "If only?" with "Next time?" and you are on the right road!

Will any system turn you into a perennially "clean desk" person ? unlikely! Messy desks are the natural outcome of a hectic pace. A place for everything and everything in its place ? forget it, but it is half right! A place for everything means than when you want to clean up your office to meet a client, or just because you are sick of the mess yourself, recovering is no big deal! Some quick decision-making will clean off your desk in a matter of minutes, bring back a sense of control and get you on your way to productivity, profit, and peace of mind!

© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at www.ProductiveEnvironment.com

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